Taking a conservative approach to resolutions | NevadaAppeal.com

Taking a conservative approach to resolutions

by Barry Ginter

You can’t walk through a room this week without overhearing a conversation about New Year’s resolutions. The camps are usually split between those who think they’re ridiculous (New Year’s Day is an arbitrary point in time with no power to help you accomplish goals that you’ve heretofore failed at) and those who see it as a legitimate opportunity to change their lives.

For me, it’s a chance to clean up my desk.

The only resolution (if you want to call it that) I’ve never failed at is mining through the strata of papers stacked around my office. It’s a ritual, and it allows me to start the new year with a clear, uncluttered head, even if the disarray returns a week later.

The beauty of it, of course, is that it’s easy to do and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

That’s why I feel sorry for all those people who are far too ambitious with their resolutions. Most are doomed to fail. If the health clubs are packed in January, just wait. You’ll have your pick of treadmills again by Valentine’s Day.

It doesn’t help that there are so many misleading ads out there. This from my e-mail in-box, for example: “Lose 55 pounds in 54 days. Using a technique that’s widely practiced in Europe, but little known in the U.S., Ray describes how you can lose a pound a day.”

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The trouble is, Ray’s lying to you, and Ray wants your money.

When you fail to lose 50 pounds, quit smoking cold-turkey, or pay off your credit cards, the only message you’re left with is that, well, you’ve failed. The best year of your life just turned into more of the same.

You wouldn’t know it by reading this, but I’m an optimist who believes in New Year’s resolutions. And what’s wrong with that … we give thanks on Thanksgiving, go to church and give praise on Christmas and Easter, and shower our significant others with love and romance on Valentine’s Day. It’s perfectly logical that New Year’s becomes a holiday dedicated to self-improvement.

Of course, the reality is that Thanksgiving is now more about food and football, Christmas and Easter are about X-Boxes and candy, and Valentine’s Day means picking up a heart-shaped box of chocolates at the convenience store on the way home. The corresponding downside to New Year’s is it can become a holiday for hangovers and unrealistic hopes.

That’s why, for the most part, I’m keeping my resolutions, a to-do list actually, reasonable. It’s full of items like “go to the doctor for a checkup.” That wouldn’t count on most people’s lists … it’s just something normal people do. But for someone who’s been known to go entire decades without a doctor visit, it’s a resolution.

Eat healthier … that’s a recognition of my lack of willpower when it comes to junk food. If there’s a bag of Doritos in the house, its life span is limited to one day, tops. So I’ll have to keep the stuff out of the house.

There are some that will take more effort. One is to not just volunteer, but to volunteer with passion. At the various board meetings I’ve been invited to in the community, I am continually impressed with people who have busy lives yet give unselfishly of their time for no other reason than they want to help make this a better place to live. They make good role models, so I’m hopeful I’ll succeed at this one.

Another is to get out of this office more, even if it’s just to walk around town and stop in random businesses or government offices to chat. The mayor never lets me forget this one, and he’s right.

More reading is another task on my list, and I’ve got great Nevada books to keep me busy. Several are from Tom Blomquist, including “Nevada Newspaper Days: A History of Journalism in the Silver State.” Another, from Andy Harvey, is “Sweet Promised Land” by Robert Laxalt. He also loaned me a DVD of “The Misfits,” and “Making The Misfits,” which has piqued my interest in other films shot here, including “The Shootist.”

I also found a copy of “Roughing It” by Mark Twain about his adventures in the West. I haven’t read it since a college literature class, so it’s on my list.

The list is populated with a variety of other assorted tasks, projects and travel destinations. The ones I’m most likely to fail at are learning a new language, scuba diving and sailing. But it won’t be failure, really. I’ll just put them on my 2008 to-do list.

•••

If I get at least four calls about something that’s run in the Appeal, it makes me think I’ve got something to talk about in this column. And I’ve just reached that threshold with the editorial cartoon that ran on Thursday’s Opinion page.

If you haven’t seen it, it shows Richard Nixon on a pedestal carelessly knocking over a vase with the inscription “Rule of Law.” Diving to catch the vase is Gerald Ford who, in the process, is knocking over a lamp and a set of golf clubs. In the background are two anonymous men. One of them is saying, “I remember Gerald Ford – what a klutz!”

The people who called thought the cartoonist (who works for the Salt Lake Tribune) intended the cartoon to be disrespectful to Gerald Ford.

His intended message was exactly the opposite.

The two people laughing and remembering Ford as nothing but a klutz are ignoring what’s right in front of their faces – Ford making a valiant effort to save what Nixon’s actions had threatened, the Rule of Law. Thus, the target of the cartoon is not Ford, but those who remember the trivial things rather than the great service he provided this country during a difficult time.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. Contact him at 881-1221 or bginter@nevadaappeal.com.